MP calls out Facebook page 'extreme views'

Andrew Falloon. PHOTO: TIMARU COURIER
Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon. PHOTO: TIMARU COURIER
Concerns have been raised about "extreme" content, including Islamophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric, on a popular Facebook page by a group advocating for South Island independence.

The South Island Independence Movement page, started by Timaru youth centre owner Solomon Tor-Kilsen, has nearly 11,000 "followers" on the social media platform.

It claims to advocate for the South Island becoming an independent country, and its members are weighing up whether to create a political party.

However, Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon believed the page was a front for extremist content. Mr Falloon said there was some "incredibly unsavoury stuff" on it.

"From what I've seen of the page, it uses what some would see as a legitimate position, to host extreme views."

Comments on the page, viewed by the Otago Daily Times, include a large number of anti-Muslim, anti-immigration and anti-gun control posts.

Timaru man Solomon Tor-Kilsen runs a Facebook page advocating the South Island becoming an...
Timaru man Solomon Tor-Kilsen runs a Facebook page advocating the South Island becoming an independent country. PHOTO: DAISY HUDSON

Mr Tor-Kilsen runs the page and posts all of its content, which is mainly news articles, memes and blog posts.

Mr Tor-Kilsen said he did not moderate the comments on the page, as he worked two full-time jobs and did not have time to check every comment.

Mr Falloon was also concerned about Mr Tor-Kilsen running a youth centre.

"We should be holding people to a higher standard, particularly where children and young people are involved.

"We have to be very, very careful about the sort of people we expose to youth."

He said anyone with extreme views should not have access to young people, and believed the page "absolutely" contained extreme views.

Mr Tor-Kilsen said he could understand how it could appear he was sharing his political views with young people who go to the youth centre.

"I do my best to keep that separate. We get kids in there whose entire life is politics, so am I going to talk to the 16-year-old nerd about politics because that's what he's into? Sure.

The South Island Independence Movement has close to 11,000 followers on Facebook. PHOTO: DAISY...
The South Island Independence Movement has close to 11,000 followers on Facebook. PHOTO: DAISY HUDSON

"Am I going to start that conversation? No."

According to the group's page, its office address is the same as the youth centre.

That was because he needed to have a postal address, the people he lived with "didn't want their address connected and we haven't got around to setting up a PO box yet".

However, he was considering removing the address from public view, as he could "see how
that would potentially send the wrong message".

He said he was surprised by Mr Falloon's comments, as he had met him a number of times and he had never raised concerns.

The youth centre recently received a $500 grant from the Timaru District Council's Youth Initiatives Fund, to buy sound equipment.

A council spokesman said "the committee can only make decisions based on the information provided to them".

"It's important to strike a balance when it comes to small donations such as this. We need to ensure that we don't end up in the situation where it costs more to administer a fund than the amount the fund distributes to the community."

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